Anti-antitrust

Rumor has it that “a federal antitrust probe of Apple is days away” according to PCWorld. I do not want to see this. Even though I criticized Steve Jobs’ statements about Flash in my previous post, it’s the hypocrisy I find most offensive. I would respect Jobs if he said

Hey, it’s my platform. I can do whatever I want with it. If you don’t like it, buy someone else’s stuff. Or better yet, go make your own platform.

That might make me want go out and buy an iPad.

However, such a statement may not hold water legally. No, you can’t do whatever you want with your own platform. Perhaps you should be able to, but that’s not the law. Hank Williams makes an interesting argument this morning that Apple may guilty of illegal restraint of trade through their use of warranties.

I’m suspicious of antitrust cases. They are often a way for competitors to win in court what they were unable to win in the marketplace. I don’t want to see Apple go through the antitrust wringer just because Microsoft had to. On the other hand, given the Microsoft precedent, it would be almost impossible to overlook Apple. The discussion of whether Microsoft should have included its web browser as part of the operating system seems absolutely trivial compared to the control Apple exerts over its devices.

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4 thoughts on “Anti-antitrust

  1. I was not never a fan of the Microsoft anti-trust suits, but I find it ironic that so many people called MS evil and moved over to Apple, only to have Apple act the same way. Maybe it’s not about monopolies as much as it’s about the big company mentality that they don’t like.

  2. I agree that Apple’s stance on “Obj-C/C/C++ only” is ridiculous since, for example, the Mono team has been only days behind each new API announcement (negating Jobs’s argument that third party dev kits are always behind)—allowing C# developers to target iPhone only helps strengthen Apple’s platform, in my opinion. (MonoTouch is in no way cross-platform, it’s just a Obj-C/C# language bridge.)

    On the other hand, Apple does not (yet) have a monopoly on cell phones nor smartphones; they are definitely less than 50% or 30% internationally at this point. (One blogger makes an argument that Apple has “a nearly-total monopoly on computer (and pocket computer) systems designed with good taste.”) Microsoft, on the other hand, used its insane 95% PC OS marketshare monopoly to hamfist its way into adjacent markets (media/music, browsers, Java runtimes, game consoles, etc.). The fact that hardware manufacturers are locked into paying the Microsoft tax and cannot deploy and sell Linux on their machines means that Linux can’t even compete when it is being given away for free (I will argree that for the most part is not nearly as hassle-free as Windows except with lack of viruses). Clearly platform lock-in is a real strategic advantage, whether or not it is legal or even questionable and I agree that if Microsoft had to be scrutinized then Apple should too, to prevent huge future abuses, but I don’t think Apple has a real monopoly to abuse yet.

    Finally, Flash has a near-monopoly on rich browser content (installed in 95+% of browsers). How do you think HTML5 or any open standard stands a chance of replacing it? I’ve heard some people say they want Adobe and Apple to both lose this war but I think the advances in HTML5 being advocated by Apple are worth letting Apple go it alone regarding boycotting flash. (I would however like to see Apple make Safari on the iPhone a bit more featureful since at this point it is very non-trivial to match native app capabilities and performance with web apps, if it is even possible.)

    Clearly Cocoa Touch API + App Store is Apple’s Win32 API. The difference will be how things play out in the open web arena and at that, Apple has been exemplary with the open source WebKit/Safari. (Compare Microsoft with IE from 2001 to 2006.)

  3. This will be interesting to watch as the gaming consoles are currently locked down even more than Apple has locked down their iPhone/iPad. Maybe we’ll be able to continue running Linux on the PS/3 after all? And I’ll be able to use an XBox 360 as a general-purpose computer? I might even be able to use something other than JME to create apps for my cell phone, provided, of course my carrier allows me to download apps to my phone.

    I’m not saying what Apple is doing is right or that I agree with it. But at the same time, I’m bemused by all the hysteria over this ‘locked down’ platform when there are so many other platforms, even used by more people, that are locked down even more yet we rarely hear anything about them.

    Interesting.

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